Kids Being Kids (i.e., Awesome)

By Eric Braun

Minneapolis writer Eric Braun on Thursday, November 20, 2013.Kids today, right? With their Minecraft and their constant singing of the Frozen soundtrack.

Actually, if you’re reading this blog, you know kids are awesome. Here are a few examples to brighten your week.

That’s Some Cabbage
When Katie Stagliano was in third grade, her teacher gave her an assignment to grow a cabbage from a single seedling. You could say Katie did okay on the homework—her cabbage grew to 40 pounds. That’s awesome, but even more awesome is what she did with it: She donated it to a food pantry in her community in South Carolina where she helped serve it with ham and rice to about 275 people. Katie's Cabbage book Inspired, Katie organized her classmates to plant a garden at her school to feed hundreds of hungry families. Soon her project grew into Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit that provides grants for gardens all over the United States. Katie has been on TV and received many recognitions, including the Clinton Global Citizen Award for fighting hunger with agricultural ingenuity. In December, her picture book, Katie’s Cabbage, will be published.

Tomato Power
How did you spend your summer vacation? Thirteen-year-old Griffin Jusko spent his hard at work—just the way he likes it. Griffin’s summer began in May when he planted his tomato garden—181 tomato plants. By mid-summer, he set up a stand at the end of his driveway and—while most kids his age were swimming or playing video games—he sold the fruits of his labor. He’s been doing this for four summers now, and he donates all his profits to charity. In 2014, he donated $2,318 to the Ronald McDonald House. In 2013, he donated over $1,000 to a children’s hospital near his Oyster Bay, NY, home.

Heating with Grease
When Cassandra Lin was 11 years old, she worried about neighbors in her Rhode Island community who were struggling to pay for heat in the winter. When she saw a science expo exhibit on turning old cooking oil into biodiesel fuel, she got an idea.Project TGIF With five friends, she formed TGIF—Turn Grease Into Fuel—and began collecting used cooking oil from restaurants. She got a refinery to convert the grease, and to date TGIF has donated 29,000 gallons of biodiesel to local charities, heating 290 homes. It’s a truly symbiotic relationship, because the restaurants don’t have to pay to dispose of the used grease. TGIF now works with 113 restaurants, collects over 4,000 gallons of grease per month, and has helped offset more than 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Buddy Benches
It was a simple idea. In spring of 2013, first-grader Christian Bucks of York, PA, noticed that some kids at his school felt lonely at recess, and he wanted to put an end to that. He talked to his principal about installing a Buddy Bench on the playground—a bench where kids can go sit if they’re feeling lonely or want someone to play with or talk to. It would be a place for kids to “meet and play with new friends or old friends.” His principal agreed, and last fall the bench arrived at the school. Buddy BenchWhen it did, Christian gave a presentation to the school board to explain it. He also spoke in front of his school. How does the bench work? In a video posted on the Buddy Bench website, Christian suggests three ideas: “The first idea is to ask someone else to play. The second idea is to ask someone to talk and walk. The third idea is two people sitting at the bench who find each other to play or talk.”

The Huffington Post and other media picked up the story of Christian and the Buddy Bench, and word spread quickly. Six months after Christian introduced the idea at Roundtown Elementary School, more than 200 schools around the world had followed his lead. Benches have popped up all over the United States as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Italy, and Canada.

Quick Hits

  • Middle school football team goes behind coaches’ backs to create a special moment for a special-needs student. (Don’t just read the story—watch the video, too. Tearjerker!)
  • Erek Hansen started recycling his own worn jeans at age 8 after reading how they could be made into home insulation. Now 14, he has recycled nearly 20,000 items of denim, been featured in dozens of articles, and runs, a recycling resource.
  • Just for fun: Watch this all-girls’ Ghostbusters trailer remake.

Eric Braun is a Minneapolis writer, editor, and kid at heart.

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